A Flinders University chemist is using Australia’s OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney to investigate ancient Aboriginal Australian society.
Using the technique called neutron activation analysis, Dr Rachel Popelka-Filcoff can “geochemically fingerprint” Aboriginal ochre pigments from different locations, archaeological sites and artefacts.
As the geochemical composition of ochre varies with location, she can correlate each sample with its site of origin, gaining information on cultural practices, travel and exchange patterns, and the relationship of Aboriginal people to the landscape. “Ochre pigments are highly significant in Aboriginal culture,” says Rachel. “Cultural expression often requires a specific pigment. Applying ochre to an object such as a spear can transform both its colour and its cultural meaning.”
Dr Roman Dronov, also from Flinders, is using the reactor to study the formation of bacterial protein layers. He is applying what he finds to constructing a new type of biosensor based on these layers and porous silicon. These highly sensitive devices can rapidly detect trace amounts of molecules, such as environmental poisons and markers of disease—a great improvement on traditional analytical methods. Continue reading OPAL reactor fingerprints Aboriginal ochre→
The economic potential of carbon is the focus of a new fire project on the Tiwi Islands, 80 kilometres north of Darwin in the Northern Territory and home to 2,000 Aboriginal Australians. Nearly half of the Tiwi Islands are burnt every year, resulting in significant greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the extent of fire may provide substantial financial benefits under the emerging carbon economy.
Invasive ants are among the greatest environmental, social and economic threats to Australia, potentially costing the nation more than $1 billion annually. However, knowledge of the basic biology of these pest species remains rudimentary, and many management operations have been unsuccessful.
Aboriginal Elders from the Traditional Tribal Groups in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area are collaborating with researchers to produce the first integrated account of the history of human settlement, landscape evolution and past environmental change for Australia’s foremost ‘Ice Age’ archive.
Indigenous people value rivers in many ways. Rivers provide bush foods and medicines, they are part of a culturally significant landscape, and have the potential to sustain future water-related businesses and employment.
So it’s important to know what impact changing river flow patterns and water allocations could have on Indigenous communities.